Powered Up for Another Title Run

March 15, 2013

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

EAST LANSING – There was a time, not long ago, when Flint Powers Catholic was expected to show up at the MHSAA Girls Basketball Finals just about every season. 

And there’s been an expectation these last few years that the Chargers would soon return. 

They needed overtime, but made good on that Friday by defeating Midland Bullock Creek 48-45 to advance to their first Class B championship game since 2001. 

And it’s a run made all the more incredible given Powers’ 3-5 start this season, their Regional Semifinal upset of No. 1 Freeland – and that they came into this winter after posting an 8-13 record a year ago. 

“We sort of had a weak start from the Ladywood game (on opening night), and from there we just started picking it up and playing as a team,” Powers senior Darbie Barkman said. “’We believe’ is a huge saying for us, and we just keep going and playing strong. No matter how many points we’re down; in the Freeland game we were down 16 points and came back from that. We just had to keep believing and keep going, and we just always have to push through as a team.” 

Powers (21-6) will face either reigning champion Goodrich or Grand Rapids South Christian at 6 p.m. Saturday. Powers and Goodrich played in the same District last season, but found themselves on the opposite side of the bracket when lines were drawn for this season. 

The Chargers are owners of four MHSAA girls basketball titles. And along with those banners, a message is posted in Powers’ gym, “We believe,” which became a necessary motto during the rough start against a tough slate including Class A Semifinalist Westland John Glenn. 

Powers coach Thom Staudacher said the schedule was built so his team would know what it needed to improve on for the rest of the season. The Chargers now have won 12 straight.

But like in other wins during this run, it took a lot of small contributions from a number of players – and some big and small both from junior forward Michela Coury. 

She scored, was fouled, and made the free throw to open overtime and give Powers a lead it would never relinquish. Coury finished with 14 points and 16 rebounds – including six on the offensive end. 

But she also forced a travel during the final minute of the fourth quarter that helped preserve the regulation tie, and grabbed one of those offensive rebounds to ice the game after Powers missed two free throws with five seconds to go on overtime. 

“We just knew it was going to come down to the last minute as far as who was going to make that last shot,” Staudacher said. “We’d been trying to feed (Coury) down low all game, but it was difficult to get her down there. 

“To start that overtime, that three-point play was huge. That wasn’t the intention. We do a dribble drive, and we were working it right there. She was open, and we’ve got to feed her the ball."

Junior guard Sara Ruhstorfer led the Chargers with 16 points and junior guard Ally Haran added 12 with five assists and five steals. 

Sophomore Halee Nieman led Bullock Creek with 15 points, 11 rebounds and four steals, while freshman forward Alyssa Mudd had 12 points and sophomore guard Hannah Heldt had nine, five assists and six steals. But the Lancers (23-4) fired only four shots during the overtime, and made only one. 

Still, as coach Justin Freeland said after, most of the time when a team is outrebounded 47-28 it should mean a double-digit loss. Instead, Bullock Creek hung on through 11 lead changes and despite 17 Powers second-chance points. 

“One thing we learned as a team is to not give up,” Heldt said. “In the Clare game (Quarterfinal), we were down 15, and probably a lot of people lost hope in us. But we just kept going.”

Bullock Creek has had other strong teams under Freeland, including a 23-1 finisher in 2006 and a 24-1 squad in 2007-08. But neither of those advanced out of the Regional.

This team entered the tournament unranked, but beat No. 2 Ludington at the Regional and fell just shy of its first championship game berth. Only three seniors graduate, and four starters should return. 

“There are a lot of athletes, from the pros to college to high school, who thought, ‘We’re young. We’ll be back next year,’” Freeland said. “I don’t want to come back one year older. We need to come back one year better. Our mentality this offseason is not going to be happy. We’re going to be hungry. And I know everyone’s going to be on board with that.”

Click for a full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Flint Powers Catholic guard Ally Haran pushes the ball upcourt during Friday's Semifinal against Bullock Creek. (Middle) Bullock Creek's Ellie Juengel (24) looks for a teammate while defended by Powers' Sara Ruhstorfer. (Photos by Hockey Weekly Action Photo.)

High School 'Hoop Squad' Close to Heart as Hughes Continues Coaching Climb

By Keith Dunlap
Special for MHSAA.com

July 11, 2024

Jareica Hughes had a Hall of Fame collegiate basketball career playing at University of Texas-El Paso and has played professionally overseas, but her most prized possession is something she earned playing high school basketball in Michigan. 

Made In Michigan and Michigan Army National Guard logosA standout at now-closed Southfield-Lathrup High School during the early-to-mid 2000s, Hughes proudly displays a signature symbol of Lathrup’s Class A championship team in 2005. 

“I have my state championship ring on me right now,” said Hughes, now an assistant head coach for the women’s basketball program at UTEP. “I wear this ring every single day. Not so much for the basketball aspect. Inside of the ring it says ‘Hoop Squad.’ It’s more the connection I’ve had with those particular young ladies. Friends that I’ve known since I was kid. Every once in a while when we talk, we go back in time.”

Believe it or not, Hughes and her high school teammates next year will have to go back 20 years to commemorate a run to the title that started when they were freshmen. 

It was a gradual build-up to what was the first girls basketball state championship won by a public school in Oakland County. Lathrup, which has since merged with the former Southfield High School to form Southfield Arts & Technology, remained the only public school in Oakland County to win a state girls basketball title until West Bloomfield did so in 2022 and again this past March. 

Lathrup lost in the District round to Bloomfield Hills Marian during Hughes’ freshman year, and then after defeating Marian in a District Final a year later, lost to West Bloomfield in a Regional Final.

When Hughes was a junior, the team got to the state’s final four, but a bad third quarter resulted in a heartbreaking one-point Semifinal loss to eventual champion Lansing Waverly. 

A year later, when Hughes and other core players such as Brittane Russell, Timika Williams, Dhanmite’ Slappey and Briana Whitehead were seniors, they finished the job and won the Class A crown with a 48-36 win over Detroit Martin Luther King in the Final.

However, the signature moment of that title run actually came during the Semifinal round and was produced by Hughes, a playmaking wizard at point guard who made the team go. 

Trailing by three points during the waning seconds of regulation against Grandville and Miss Basketball winner Allyssa DeHaan – a dominant 6-foot-8 center – Hughes drained a tying 3-pointer from the wing that was well beyond the 3-point line. 

Lathrup went on to defeat Grandville in overtime and prevail against King.

Hughes said the year prior, she passed up on taking a potential winning or tying shot in the Semifinal loss against Waverly, and was reminded of that constantly by coaches and teammates. “I just remember in the huddle before that shot, that just kept ringing in my mind,” she said. “That was special. I cried for weeks not being able to get a shot off (the year before) and leaving the tournament like that.”

Growing up in Detroit, Hughes got into basketball mainly because she had five older brothers and an older sister who played the game. In particular, Hughes highlights older brother Gabriel for getting her into the game and taking her from playground to playground.

“I’m from Detroit,” she said. “We played ball all day long. Sunup to sundown. When the light comes on, you had to run your butt into the house.”

Hughes, second from left, begins the championship celebration with her Lathrup teammates at Breslin Center.Hughes played for the Police Athletic League and also at the famed St. Cecilia gym in the summer, developing her game primarily against boys.

“My first team was on a boys team,” she said. “I was a captain on a boys team.” 

The family moved into Lathrup’s district before she began high school. 

Once she helped lead Lathrup to the 2005 championship, she went on to a fine career at UTEP, where she was the Conference USA Player of the Year twice and helped lead the Miners to their first NCAA Tournament appearance.

Hughes still holds school records for career assists (599), steals (277) and minutes played (3,777). On Monday, she was named to Conference USA’s 2024 Hall of Fame class. 

After a brief professional career overseas was derailed by a shoulder injury, Hughes said getting into coaching was a natural fit. 

“I had to make the hard decision, and I knew as a kid I wanted to be around basketball,” she said. “Once I made that decision (to quit), I knew I was going to coach.”

Hughes started coaching in the Detroit area, first serving as an assistant at Southfield A&T from 2016-20 and then at Birmingham Groves for a season. She then served as interim head coach at Colby Community College in Kansas before being named an assistant at UTEP in May 2023, a month after her former coach Keitha Adams returned to lead the program after six seasons at Wichita State.  

While fully immersed in her job with UTEP, Hughes’ high school memories in Michigan certainly aren’t going away anytime soon – especially with the 20th anniversary of Lathrup’s championship coming up. 

“We are still close friends because we all essentially grew up together,” she said. “They are still my friends to this day.”

2024 Made In Michigan

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PHOTOS (Top) At left, Southfield-Lathrup’s Jareica Hughes drives to the basket against Detroit Martin Luther King during the 2005 Class A Final; at right, Hughes coaches this past season at UTEP. (Middle) Hughes, second from left, begins the championship celebration with her Lathrup teammates at Breslin Center. (UTEP photo courtesy of the UTEP sports information department.)